CALAIS, Maine — The $10 million expansion of an existing Walmart store and a new discount clothing chain store on Main Street may be just the sparks needed to ignite revitalization, community leaders said this week.
Once they are up and running, the two new projects should mean at least 60 new jobs for Calais.
“We are encouraged,” Jim Porter, assistant to the city manager, said Wednesday. “This shows they have faith in Calais.”
Porter said new energy such as this often can be the tipping point for a community, a forerunner of other new development.
“This is good news for Calais,” City Manager Diane Barnes said Wednesday. “Both of these projects will offer new employment and Walmart especially will expand the tax base.”
According to Alex Dostie of Wal-Mart Corp. headquarters in Arkansas, the expansion will bring at least 50 full- and part-time jobs to the area.
“We are responding directly to the needs and wants of our customers,” Dostie said. “We have a terrific relationship with Calais.”
The Walmart expansion was approved this week by the Calais Planning Board and will renovate an existing retail store into a Walmart Supercenter by adding 25,000 square feet. The project will be bid in the spring with construction expected to begin by summer and be completed in about a year, Porter said.
On Main Street, Label Shopper, a New England-based discount clothing chain, already is renovating the 8,000-foot former Unobsky College building.
According to Peter Elitzer, CEO of Label Shopper, Calais was selected for the very reason that there wouldn’t be heavy competition.
“This is the exact kind of market base we are looking for,” Elitzer said Thursday. “We want to be where it is not over-stored, and Calais is not over-stored.”
Label Shopper, founded in the late 1980s, has 40 stores throughout New England, Pennsylvania and New York. At least 10 new jobs are expected to be created and Elitzer said a local contractor is renovating the location.
“We have an environmental assessment under way,” Elitzer said, and barring any problems with that, the store should open in mid-November.
Elitzer said the store carries off-price brand-name garments of high quality. It will offer both men and women’s clothing.
“This could be an anchor for downtown,” Porter said.
Porter said Label Shopper officials did not have to appear before the planning board to retrofit the property but will be applying to the board to install a new sign.